Late September, I drove 1,500 miles from Denver to Roanoke with my mother in my worn out yet still determined little Cavalier. We started late in the afternoon from Cottonwood Riding Club – the barn my mum worked at for about 12 years, and my first sense of belonging to a community after moving from England to Colorado. It was quite the serendipitous turn of events providing a real sense of closure in my Colorado chapter. Our first pit stop was an hour south east of Cottonwood in the town of Elizabeth where my step dad’s parents live. Apparently I’ve got a knack for this whole closure thing because their house was certainly my first sense of home in the state. After a quick cup of tea, and acquiring two boxes of PG Tips to squeeze in the car, we set our sights on Kansas. In the beautiful, highway-straddling town of Colby we checked into a Quality Inn, inhaled some sandwiches, split a beer, and collapsed on our beds. We slept like we needed it, which means we barely slept at all.
The next morning, shuffling in the dark drizzle, we loaded our few overnight bits back in Cavalier and set our sights as far away from Kansas as possible. Perhaps Kansas tried to help us glide away by offering up a fun hydroplaning opportunity, or perhaps losing control of the vehicle on a long road trip with little sleep is just our luck. Either way, mum demonstrated her constant ability to handle adversity with a calm focus and good laugh thereafter. Well done mum. By lunch time we had finally come out the other end of a storm and stopped for a lunch that consisted of meat, potatoes, and vegetables – a proper dinner, if you will – to appease the mother and her stern beliefs about the superpowers of certain foods. For the next six hours we talked about the book she’s going to write, listened to podcasts featuring charming Irish poets and progressive comedians, played your average alphabet themed road trip games, and admired the car’s performance in its old age.
That night, we stopped at the same motel we had stayed at when I helped her and Steve make the same move across country. I could argue the 12 hours of driving left us without the energy to look for motels, but most accurate is that we are undeniably creatures of habit. When we saw the familiar building with lights shining on us from the side of the highway we were instantly delighted to stick with what we know – particularly knowing how to get there, which was a real challenge for us the first time trying to understand its frontage road access.
Day three was the most exciting because it was the day we would get to Roanoke, but even though we would be driving less hours than day two it felt longer due to the anticipation. It was quite emotional. Come 5pm we had made it to the local grocery store and were getting some assortment of dinner items that involved “good” bread and cheese. This due to another of mum’s entrenched beliefs about what one ought to eat after three days of driving; I’m confident she could justify a food pairing for any possible situation life might throw at you.
The following week and a half I was without my “other half,” though I wouldn’t actually call him that because I try to be intentional with my words and believe that we are all whole individuals who shouldn’t imply we need someone else to make us feel complete. Nonetheless, he certainly enriches my life. That aside, I spent this time finishing the basement Cam and I now live in, securing two jobs, becoming a regular at all the thrift stores in search of furniture, and playing a lot of cards with mum. Thankfully, by the time Cam arrived I had managed to make the basement look like some kind of a home, and then had to do it all over again after unpacking his Jeep and trailer.
Our basement domain is now a cozy sanctuary that opens into Cam’s budding farming business. Walls are adorned with paintings by friends and family, photographs from the Canada Sabbatical, and elaborate calendars to organize our respective projects. Sharing a living space with my parents and my partner has been interesting to say the least, and will continue to be so in ways I’m yet to learn. There are the obvious challenges, like how to strategically hide our ice cream so Steve doesn’t succumb to temptation, and more obscure ones, like how mum can explain to Cam her quirks around strictly using the hand towel for hand drying and the tea towel for dish drying. Overall, I’m amazed each day at all the little ways this multi-generational cohabitation is fun and rewarding.
Mum and I motivate one another to get our bake on – especially after indulging in an afternoon cuppa while we watch The Great British Baking Show. I’ve now pummeled dough three Sundays in a row and (if the Pan De Muertos currently in the oven turns out alright) have actually created multiple edible configurations that resemble bread. It seems Cam has sparked a fuse in Steve to make moves on a part-time home business initiative that is now materializing in the garage. Perhaps it’s somewhat lame to be eating left overs amid dinner table discussions with the folks on Halloween weekend, instead of dressing up and socializing with peers, but until Cam or I actually make a friend out here I’m just appreciating the slower pace of life this habitat is allowing for.
Commuting to work in Denver could easily mean 30 minutes of examining brake lights, throwing my hands up in angry gestures, and crisscrossing through the city grid to get to a job 5 miles away. My commute now is 20 miles and a consistent 27 minutes. Instead of break lights I examine the way the light breaks through the trees at different times of day, and my hands stay rested on the wheel while I cruise along a winding state highway through rolling hills. Having grown up a country girl I feel a sense of familiarity in this new environment. I’m still learning how to calm the anxiety that crept up on me my last year in Denver. Starting a new job comes with some stress, and I naturally acquired two sources of income, but I’m in a much different space now – mentally and physically. When I wake to see the mist hugging the belly of Roanoke mountain, and in the afternoon stroll through market stalls, then fall asleep with a belly full of home cooked food, I’m reminded not just of where I came from, but how I want to be – aware of the beauty that surrounds me, a part of a community, and (if I can remain so fortunate) especially well fed.
The drive to Roanoke
October Beans from the market
Hiking through Explore Park along the Blue Ridge Parkway
My first go at bread making – honey oat loaves
Cycling along side Roanoke River
Picking up some spuds at the farmers market